If you’ve followed the social media conversation in the last few weeks, you’ve likely heard about a question and answer platform called Quora. A tiny sampling of what’s being said:
- “Quora will be bigger than Twitter”
- “Is Quora the Breakout Site of 2010?”
- “Google Head Designer Admires Q&A Startup Quora”
So, at the very least we know it is blindingly-shiny at the moment. But it’s not just chatter that Quora is generating, it’s a massive amount of signups, too. Employees have attributed this, in part, to recent coverage from blogs and news outlets like the ones I’ve included here. As I write this, there are probably 100 “what’s so special about Quora” posts being simultaneously written by those that see the site as nothing more than a flash in the pan. While I think the buzz will die down, Quora will continue to thrive.
The recognition factor
This one’s simple. People like to be recognized for their efforts, and they are fascinated by what others say about them. A Pew study found that 57% of “adult internet users” perform vanity searches (searching for their own name online), and Quora has a robust email notification system that, by default, alerts users whenever anyone interacts with or mentions them.
Rewarding users through public recognition is one of the best ways to make sure they come back. Although Quora offers the ability to anonymously ask and answer questions, it seems that far more user-generated content is contributed without anonymity. Of the 31 “Best Questions” about Twitter, for instance, only 2 were asked anonymously.
Top contributors and most-followed users are featured prominently throughout the site, which triggers the desire among users to achieve a similar status. The same effect is seen in online reviews. When Urban Outfitters (a Bazaarvoice client) featured top reviewers in an email campaign, they saw a surge of review activity across the site, according to Mya Gupta, Marketing Coordinator:
After the campaign launch, we initially saw a 139% increase in reviews per day (86-203 reviews per day). To this day, we still have not seen the amount of daily reviews drop below 130 reviews per day. In reference to photos uploaded, we saw an increase of 239% in photos submitted per week (18-61 photos) since the email delivered.
News outlets are now using Quora as a source of information, according to a tweet by Jeremiah Owyang:
It won’t be long before traditional media regularly scans Quora for experts to lend comments to developing stories, and this will increase the value of participation for those seeking publicity, further sustaining usage.
A powerful participation chain
A participation chain is “a way of cultivating user involvement so that each action builds upon the one before, building value along the way.” For instance, a thank you or registration email that contains content designed to encourage users to take the next step—invite their friends, view products purchased by similar customers, rate a service they received—brings users back to the site and builds increasing levels of engagement. Quora strings together a participation chain through clever placement of relevant calls-to-action at every turn. Upon logging in, I’m told that there are “new items related to [me],” including mentions, invitations from others to answer questions, questions I might be able to answer based on its analysis of my profile, and new followers to engage with. I’m asked to organize new questions from others into new or existing categories so others can find them. When I follow a question, topic, or user, I’m notified of any updates by email. Chances are, at least one of these calls-to-action will make me click and dig deeper.
Each act of participation increases the chance that additional steps will be taken. As users contribute more to Quora, they’ll return more, and they’ll take steps that require more time and effort than their last. They’ll be rewarded in much the same way that Twitter users “earn” followers as their updates increase in frequency. Twitter usage also predicts that as Quora users build a following, their participation will also increase, possibly motivated by a sense of demand from a growing audience.
Leverages the networks we’ve already chosen
Quora’s founders come from Facebook, the platform with over 500 million users and Time’s Person of The Year at the helm. Instead of creating a network of their own from scratch, they’ve made sure that Quora is fully integrated with Twitter and Facebook in ways that are intuitive and useful to users of both platforms. New profiles can be created simply by giving Quora access to a user’s Twitter or Facebook information, so registration is almost effortless. Once signed up, it’s easy to auto-follow our existing connections on both sites. As soon as we do this, our experience instantly becomes more relevant; the content is served up from people we already know and trust, and this familiarity also makes it likelier that we’ll be motivated to join the conversations we see when we log in. We’re not talking about a walled garden here, but an open, comfortable cross-platform experience.
Access to movers
It’s clear that much of the recent buzz surrounding Quora has been generated by the active participation of influencers like Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Edelman’s David Armano, Twitter’s Evan Williams, and TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington. These are people that others want to get in front of, and Quora provides a very real opportunity to do so. By answering questions asked by these influencers, or asking them for their expertise on questions asked by others, users can engage with them directly in a way that few other channels allow for. The thrill of a reply from someone a user holds in high regard will keep them coming back.
Quora will survive because it gives us a reason to participate, constantly and creatively reminds us to do so, and seamlessly ties into the social networks we’ve already chosen. Do you agree?